Eagles eye second consecutive state title

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Defending the Alabama Independent School Association's Class AAA state basketball title will be a challenge for Fort Dale Academy this year.

Even though three starters are returning to the Eagles' lineup this season, tenthnyear Head Coach Reggie Mantooth said the team will have to gain knowledge to repeat as state champs.

"We're excited about the season and this year's squad," Mantooth said. "We've got some returning starters from last year, but it's really a new team. We've got a lot of kids that are new from junior high that didn't play at all last year. Even though we've got a good group coming back, it's still going to be a learning experience for our team until we get used to each other and playing together."

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Seniors Brett Paulk, who will make the transition from wing guard to point guard, Forward Andrew Hollis and Guard Daniel Wesley will return this season for FDA. Mantooth said the seniors lost last year will make a difference.

"It's a different team, we're still learning," Mantooth said. "You would think with three starters coming back, you ought to be the same team. The few people we lost last year made it a little different team."

Fort Dale's varsity squad consists of 13 players this year. Mantooth said the relationships between the players is strong.

"We've got a good group of guys that enjoy being around each other," Mantooth said. "We went to camp this summer together, we have a summer league here and they've played together for a long time. They all get along and play well together."

Size is what Mantooth believes is the Eagles' biggest advantage this season.

"We're a lot bigger this year," Mantooth said. "Hopefully that will be a strength for us throughout the year. Another strength is our ability to get up and down the floor and play an up-tempo game. Our team is always going to try to stress defense and play hard. We're not a very good defensive team right now, but I think we'll get better. We'll try to press a good bit and do some things defensively to get in the game and up the tempo."

Mantooth said his teams weakness is shooting longnrange baskets and the inexperience of some of the players that will see a lot of playing time. He said the Eagles would have to improve in those areas if they hope to capture the state title two years in a row.

"We've got to really continue to improve each week and throughout the season," Mantooth said. "That was our goal last year, to get better and better, and be playing our best at the end of the year. It's the same thing this year, especially with the new faces we've got on the team and the new lineup."

Fort Dale's area is made up of Morgan, Hooper and Pike. Mantooth expects Morgan to be the Eagles' toughest area competitor.

"I think Morgan will definitely be our toughest challenge," Mantooth said. "They've got a good group returning. They were down a little bit last year, but they played a lot of tenth and eleventh graders, so we expect them to be good."